The Difficulties on One’s Identity During Divorce


  • If you view yourself as being part of a relationship, and the relationship ends in divorce, it can cause an identity crisis.
  • After a divorce, many find themselves viewing their role as a spouse as a failure.
  • You are not defined by your failed relationship.

"You are not your previous relationship."

When you are with someone for a long time, albeit friends, dating, or married, you sometimes can become lost in that person. You start to think of yourself as part of a duo and begin to make decisions based on the well-being of that duo. You may stop ordering Chinese food, because you know the other person doesn’t like it, or you may stop shopping at specific stores because you know that the other person does not like it when you wear clothes from there.

Whatever way you slice it, you begin to lose a little bit of your individuality, which makes any potential break up or divorce all the more devastating.

For those that are in these circumstances, many of them may feel that they have been defining themselves as a part of this couple, and so when the couple divorces, they may be losing their perception of their own identity.

Divorce and how you see it

According to “The Oxford Handbook of Identity Development,” the concept of divorce is threatening to how someone, who views themselves as a married individual, identifies or sees themselves. It threatens identity coherence during separation with unique attention paid to the individual who decides to leave versus the one who may seek to maintain the relationship.

If one spouse in the relationship initiates the divorce, the other can find themselves playing emotional catch-up, attempting to sort through all of the feelings that the person who initiated the process may have already sorted through. In doing so, the initiator already has separated their identity from the concept of the couple, and they may never have lost their own identity in the concept of the couple in the first place.

This may prevent a spouse from pursuing any type of reconciliation in the first place. Many people simply have too much pride to love someone who has already given up on them, forcing them to give up their sense of identity in the process. The emotions attached to one’s sense of pride begin to outweigh the emotions attached to one’s sense of identity, but because this weighing is done by force and while there are so many other aspects of the married life to be divided, it can make for a difficult and emotional time for the spouse identifying with being a part of the couple.

Roles in relationships

With all that is changing and separating, many can find themselves taking the divorce as a sense of loss and a sense of failure, according to The Huffington Post. They see their identity as a husband as a role they failed in, rather than accepting the fact that there many moments in life where we will have relationships that do not work out, whether that is marriages, friendship, work relationships, dating relationships, or familial relationships.

Your role in their lives may no longer service them, or you may have simply grown apart. While one’s identity can involve an unconditional love for others, that does not mean others will feel the same. While that sentiment can be damaging to one’s self-esteem, it also can be an opportunity to grow in the long run. By allowing yourself to see past the identity of being in a relationship that ultimately could not sustain itself, you are allowing yourself the opportunity of becoming someone new moving forward.

Becoming someone new after a divorce can be a scary sentiment. You want to continue to be yourself and who you have always been, but if that person’s identity lost itself in the divorcing relationship, it can require a moment to reflect and reevaluate who you are as a person.

Finding yourself

While identity can often be lost in who you are in relation to others, it also can be lost in how you see yourself. With how defeated and lost you can feel during and after a divorce, it is important to remember that you are not defined by your failures, and as dysfunctional or unhappy as your previous marriage may have been, that is not who you are. You are not your previous relationship.

A marriage that has ended, while emotional, is not indicative of the two individuals that it featured. They are not defined by the end of their relationship, and that is not their identity. They both are capable of picking up the pieces of their lives and moving forward, learning from what mistakes they both have made and capable of moving forward, identifying not by what is behind them, but by what is in front of them.

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